by Candice Hart
As gardeners, many of us like to relax in the backyard, taking time to enjoy our beautiful flowers. Why not bring those beautiful bloomers indoors to enjoy? Many showy flowers, grasses and foliage are available to interplant into your existing garden beds, allowing you to harvest throughout the seasons.
“The most important thing to consider when choosing a plant for a cut flower garden is the vase life of the flower,” says University of Illinois Extension educator Candice Hart. “Some flowers simply do not last long once cut from the plant. Daylilies, for example, have a very accurate name; the flower only lasts for a day, making it a poor choice for a cut flower garden. On the other hand, oriental lily, a perennial bulb, has a much longer vase life.”
Listed below is a selection of plant choices for a long-seasoned cut flower garden in Illinois. These annuals, perennials, bulbs, grasses and shrubs will be easy to grow and the vase life of the flowers will be at least a week in most cases.
Annuals may be easily started from seed indoors to create transplants or may be direct-seeded right into the garden. Easy to grow examples include zinnias, strawflower, celosia, gomphrena, amaranth, cosmos, black-eyed Susan and sunflowers.
Bulbs make great additions to an existing garden bed that needs a bit of color. Spring flowering bulbs are perennials and are planted in the fall. Summer bulbs are planted in the spring and dug up at the end of the season. Both types of bulbs can serve as beautiful cut flowers. Spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils and lily of the valley are all long-lasting cut flowers. Dahlias and gladiolus are beautiful summer bulbs that are worth the effort of digging up at the end of each season.
Stagger out your flowering times when selecting your perennials to have flowers always available for cutting. Hellebores, bleeding heart, peonies, iris, liatris, purple coneflower, eryngium, poppies, astilbe, clematis, yarrow and sedum are all reliable options.
Foliage plants, grasses and shrubs
These plants may not have showy flowers, but they add a unique texture to your garden arrangements. Plant lamb’s ear, dusty miller, scented geranium, hosta, Solomon’s seal, coral bells, miscanthus, northern sea oats, beautyberry, smoke bush, spirea, Japanese pieris and ninebark in your garden to have a ready supply of foliage and textural elements to add to your vase.
“The best time to cut flowers from the garden is in the morning, before the dew has evaporated. The next-best time to cut flowers is in the early evening,” Hart says. “Be sure to place your stems into water with a floral preservative as soon as possible after cutting. Floral preservative packets can be found at your local florist. Remove any foliage from the stems that will be under water, and place your vase in a cool location, away from direct sunlight or drafts. Change your water every few days, adding a new floral preservative packet each time, to ensure a long vase life for your beautiful garden arrangement.”